CEC's 1999 Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Pat Beckman Shares Her Success

By Riechmann, Sharon | Teaching Exceptional Children, November/December 1999 | Go to article overview

CEC's 1999 Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Pat Beckman Shares Her Success


Riechmann, Sharon, Teaching Exceptional Children


An Educator Guided by Strong Philosophy

Resume Snapshot

Personal: Married, four children, nine grandchildren

Residence: Lives in Sandy, Utah (just 15 miles southeast of Salt Lake City)

Hobbies: Exercise, gardening, singing (Beckman recorded and toured with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 6 years. Now she leads her church choir.)

Other Notable Honors: Listed in the Marquis Who s Who in the West. Received the University of Utah Department of Special Education Award for Student Research Contributions

While Pat Beckman explained her independent and strategic learning program to a group of teachers at the 1999 CEC Annual Convention in Charlotte, NC, they were riveted to her every word-because of the hands-on concepts they'll be able to use with their own students and the passion Beckman exudes.

When Beckman, The Council for Exceptional Children's 1999 Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year, was an undergraduate home economics and social science major at Whittier College in Whittier, CA, few people, including Beckman herself, would ever have expected her to present such a dynamic seminar to a crowded room. At the time, Beckman spoke with a stutter. For that reason, she never wanted to be a teacher. But, while giving a demonstration about sewing to her class, Beckman's stuttering ceased. With that challenge overcome, Beckman pursued a teaching career.

Since that turning point, she has built a general and special education teaching career on some basic principles and philosophies based on her love for children and under the guidance of mentors.

"Find something you get excited about and build a program on it."

"All children should be able to access the general education curriculum."

"When you find something that works, share it with others."

Through these philosophies, Beckman created the Integrated Strategies Program, which encourages active, self-proficient learners. Beckman knows that teaching students how to take control of their own learning by using various techniques-such as cues, chunking, and visualizing-will help them access the general education curriculum. (See the side box for a list of these strategies.)

"Too often we hinder rather than help by saying, `here, let me help you' instead of saying, `look, John, there's a cue chart up there you can use,'" said Beckman.

Former students testify to the effectiveness of her techniques and the depth of her caring.

"When I first came in resource, I didn't like to read. ... [Beckman] had strategies to help me do my spelling. I started having 100 % on my tests. I became a good speller. She made me feel smart," said student Jessica Coppard.

Beckman hopes it will become common practice in the future for students to learn to read by using individual-- appropriate levels of reading materials. She is confident that, except for students with severe reading disabilities, students taught with this strategy would be reading on grade level by the 3rd grade.

In addition to inservices, professional workshop presentations, and college courses on strategic learning geared toward special and general educators, Beckman conducts workshops for parents. Her students' parents commend Beckman on the time, energy, and dedication she pours into the workshops as well as the improvements in their children's education.

"Taking her classes has helped us and many other parents look at the learning process from a different perspective," said Laura Barr Platt, a parent of one of Beckman's former students. "There are many teaching tools available to us now that we did not have before. ... [Our children] are becoming better prepared for their own futures and are learning how to take control of their own abilities and being able to use them instead of expecting others to do it for them."

Neutralizing the Education Pendulum of Ideas

During her more than 30 years of teaching, Beckman has watched the pendulum swing in special and general education in terms of what is good and bad in educational practice. …

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